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What is driving the European dental implant markets?

The European dental implant markets have seen a significant rise in the recent years as a result of numerous factors such as the rising geriatric population and the growing need for aesthetic dentistry to preserve their dental health and appearance. (Image: edwardolive/Shutterstock)

Thu. 29. September 2022


Unsurprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic crippled the entire dentistry industry in 2020 and 2021, when elective medical surgeries such as dental implant and bone grafting procedures were postponed. Some countries, namely Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands, recovered more quickly than others, and others were heavily affected by extended shutdowns, particularly those that rely on patients from abroad, such as Italy. However, this impact on the market is relatively straightforward and predictable, devastating as it may be, and recovery will be a linear process. What is far more intricate to uncover are the factors that are driving the industry on a broader scale, looking years ahead instead of months.

It would be foolish to begin a discussion of market drivers for dental implants without addressing the most obvious factor: an ever-growing ageing population that naturally has a higher incidence of missing teeth and the need for aesthetic dentistry procedures. Once again, however, this is an obvious avenue of growth. A far more compelling patient-driven trend to discuss is cost and its implications.

It is not surprising that implant procedures are expensive by nature; however, it comes as more of a shock that there is almost no insurance coverage or reimbursement for such procedures. It is true that in some countries, such as Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands, governments do provide some form of reimbursement for dental implant procedures. However, coverage is usually limited and partial reimbursement is only so useful when the cost of a typical procedure is already so high. Furthermore, most private health and dental insurance policies do not cover dental implants. This is a severe hinderance for procedure growth, particularly in the younger demographic who cannot easily afford a procedure costing thousands of euros compared with people in their 50s or 60s.

Dental implant market growth in Europe. (Source: iData Research)

Value segment companies flooding the European implant market

The use of cheaper implants is driving market growth, not in terms of sheer market value but in terms of procedure numbers. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Italian market, where there is a perfect storm of cost sensitivity and massive demand for aesthetic dentistry. Previously, patients had no alternative to expensive, premium implants, but dentists are now able to offer significantly discounted products at a fraction of the cost. Implants were once dominated by European products, but companies from South Korea, Israel and Argentina, to name a few, have emerged in great numbers in the market. Opening the market up to patients who could previously not afford such treatments has contributed to a substantial increase in potential procedure volume.

Increasing number of general practitioners placing implants

Many would assume that the materials are only a fraction of the cost of the procedure and that the majority of the expense comes from treatment by a specialised dental implant professional, particularly in light of the limited availability of such practitioners. That was the case until recent years. Much more evident in the US but still a growing trend in Europe is the increased number of general practitioners who are able to perform dental implant procedures. Many postgraduate education programmes and training courses have gained popularity among general practitioners seeking to broaden their skills and increase the services they can offer. This has had two major benefits: a sizeable increase in the number of professionals who are able to offer dental implant services and the potential for longer-term decreased costs to patients as a result of this growing supply.

Overview of the surgical guide market by manufacturer type. (Source: iData Research)

It is all about digital technology

Lastly, and certainly not a trend on the forefront of everyone’s mind, is the slow but steady development and integration of digital dentistry. Over the course of the last two decades, digital dentistry has revolutionised the industry. While dental professionals are not known for their technological literacy or desire to be on the front lines of digital innovation within their practices, sentiment has dramatically changed in recent years, and this trend is an inevitability over time. This is particularly true for new dentists entering the market who are increasingly aware of the digital technologies available to them, such as treatment planning software, CAD/CAM, and software supporting the design of surgical guides and their use during procedures.

Additionally, an increasing number of dental schools are incorporating the latest technological advancements into their curricula, exposing prospective dentists to a wider array of available tools and reducing the time and effort needed to learn to use these. Also, of course, while an investment in computer technology such as treatment planning software greatly benefits dental professionals in terms of both efficiency and scope of services they can offer, it ultimately improves the quality of service delivered to the patients. The use of computer aids allows for maximum customisation for each individual patient case and higher levels of accuracy during procedures.

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